A Coaching Power Tool Created by Chloe Case
(Business Coach, CANADA)
Every single person on earth has a unique way of viewing the world. Some people lean towards the stereotypical “glass half full”, where others lean in the other way entirely. However, I think it is an inarguable fact that we have all had moments in which we imagine the absolute worst-case scenario; we imagine our life as we know it coming to an end – a loss of a job we have worked towards for decades, the loss of a partner we have been fighting to keep, the disappointment and utter upset of a parent or child discovering we are not perfect. We have all had dark moments, days, hours, and thoughts, but what sets the successful and truly fulfilled apart from those that will never feel 100% complete or comfortable is one’s mindset.
Regardless of with whom you speak, it is a fact of life that there will be things that happen that are less than ideal – and oftentimes, completely and utterly unfortunate and terrible. Given that human beings are inherently imperfect, it is an unattainable goal to wish for constant perfection, constant happiness. We cannot control the events that happen to us, nor can we control anyone else. However, we are in complete control not only over how we handle situations but even more so how we perceive situations. Put quite frankly, at the end of the day, perception is the ultimate difference between a life lived happily ever after, and a life of disappointment.
In my coaching practice, I have found this concept of perception can be boiled down to two different types of people – those who see things through the doomsday lens, and those who understand and live by the concept of existentialism. I will delve deeper into both of these concepts in the next two sections, but put simply, it is the difference between living a life of negativity and worry, and a life of positivity and perspective. Ultimately as a coach, I believe I must ask questions of my clients and frame things in a way that can have people coming from a doomsday perspective, and leave the work they have done with me with rose-colored glasses.
I use the term “doomsday” to refer to the negative headspace many of us have been in at one time or another. We all have bad days and occasional bad thoughts, but when a client only sees things or primarily sees things with a negative view, that is when a total change of perception, uncovering underlying beliefs, and reframing perspectives are crucial for the forward movement of a client.
I am sure many people reading this are familiar with the concept of a “doomsday prepper”. This is a term used for people who quite literally are preparing for the end of the world. These people stock up on canned foods, bottles of water, weapons, and some even have built literal bunkers – all in preparation for what they view as being the inevitable coming of the end of the world. Many of these people pride themselves on this feat and spend not only their money, but also their time, worrying, prepping, and fearing for the end that they feel is near.
Undoubtedly, this is an incredibly rare occurrence, and by no means am I suggesting that many of us as coaches will be encountering clients preparing for the end of the world. However, what this example does hold that we may find in many of our clients is the tendency to spend so much time focused on the absolute worst-case scenarios and “what ifs”, that they forget to live the life they have before them. Concerns of things out of our control, – whether it is the end of the actual world, or losing a job, losing a significant other, what others think of us – often do not serve us at all. Of course, it is completely normal and even healthy in some cases to think things through, prepare what we can, and ensure we are ready for whatever we are going to face, but dwelling endlessly on something that is out of our control or always imagining the worst that can happen as if it definitely will, are not healthy or conducive to forward movement whatsoever.
Many clients seek out coaching to help them move forward in their lives and ultimately find themselves living a life that is much better than the one they had when they began. Moving from the doomsday prepper mentality to one of existentialism and positivity can be the biggest and most important step a client can take in finding this new, better life they are seeking.
The term “existentialism” is often associated with the works of French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre. In a lecture given in 1946, Sartre stated that “Man is nothing other than what he makes himself.” Sartre viewed existentialism as a positive way of looking at one’s life, as it is made of infinite possibilities. This idea has driven much of the way I coach and what I wish to impart on my clients, as I believe the secret to finding happiness is remembering that we are the only ones who can decide how we feel, how we act, and how we perceive anything that happens to us.
I acknowledge that the way I use the term “existentialism” is a very boiled-down version of Sartre and other philosopher’s definition of the term. However, I have found that a client finding their way from a worldview of negativity, to one of positivity and lack of concern over things they cannot change or impact makes a world of difference. If we are to return to the previously stated example of one preparing relentlessly for the end of the world, what is this person losing in the midst? Even if we were to believe that their thought was correct, and the world is going to end in the coming years, is the daily torture of believing that to be truly worth being prepared? Even in the scenario where we go along with the ultimate belief (the end of the world), how much is lost along the way? Peace of mind, happiness, contentment, etc.
As I stated earlier, I recognize that many of us are pre-programmed to naturally look at the world either with a positive or negative lens. Many things affect this, I am sure, however as a coach, I am concerned with how my clients take the best steps forward to changing their lives for the better. I have yet to meet someone – in my personal or professional life – that seeks to see the world with a more negative, more concerned, less happy viewpoint. Therefore, I would think it is fair enough to state that any client I have ever and will ever have is wanting to make their lives a better, happier place, and this is how reframing ones view from that of the end of the world to that of realizing that nothing is the end of the world, nothing is ever as bad as it seems, and the only thing we truly have control over is our perception, is the change I see as being from one of doomsday to that of existentialism. Nothing is ever as bad as we make it in our head, and nearly none of the things we worry about ever come true, so unless those preparing for the end of the world happen to be correct, this shift in perception will be life-changing. (And quite frankly, even if they are right, and the world does come to a sudden and abrupt end, I think I will be happy knowing I was living my life to the fullest until the bitter end.)
Applying this change in perspective to a coaching session takes time and is an ongoing process. Even for myself, who believes wholeheartedly in the wonders of shifting one’s perception to that of positivity, I find myself (even sometimes daily) having negative thoughts, worrying about something out of my control, or dwelling on something that has already taken place that wasn’t ideal. I am human, as we all are, and these thoughts are natural – what is important is having the positive thoughts outweigh the negative, and never believing the worst-case scenarios we play out in our heads to be a reality.
Of course, as a coach, asking powerful questions is the best tool to help a client along their journey. In the application of this power tool, I find asking many questions that make a client truly think about what is in their control is crucial. These questions may include but are not limited to:
- What is in your control in this situation?
- What is the worst thing that could happen? The best thing?
- In your worst-case scenario, what in actuality is the likelihood of those things coming to fruition?
- How can you reframe this thought to be through a positive lens?
- Is the way you are currently thinking of this situation conducive to the end goal you desire? If not, what is a way of thinking of this situation that is?
- What is working for you with this viewpoint? What is not?
I find that when a client is unhappy with their current state of being, questions that get the client to consider how what they are currently doing is not working for them are crucial. Also, allowing them to come up with the most outlandish worst-case scenario, and then following it up with, “If this is what is going to happen, what can you do to change it now?” Not only do I almost always find my clients laughing when they hear the craziness of their worst-case scenarios spoken out loud, they then realize that if that worst-case scenario was to happen there is nothing to be done about it anyway. The only thing we truly have power over is our perception.
Kaufmann, Walter. 1956. Existentialism: From Dostoevsky to Sartre.